The Sparrow and the Webb

Mystics versus Lanhydrock at Lanhydrock House, 3rd August 2007

We're not sure we've ever seen Brian Read in motion without a mower beneath him; there is some speculation that it may just be a mobility scooter with a flymo attachment. Whatever it is, the ground looked fabulous again.

Team news: JC's shoulder had failed to hold up; he'd been lying on it in a funny position (the pitch at Fowey). Ern came in, volunteering for the keeper's gloves too.

The clouds threatened as Dunc and Chris Healey recreated the glory days of the BBC by opening together. Somewhat cautious glory days; an especially slow-scoring Dunc complained later about not getting enough of the strike and, despite Chris's denials, it did take till Ashton's 6th over before Dunc got to face him.

Ashton and fellow young opener Trethewey were both bowling well. They were given endless advice and ball polishing from Ben Libby, who then came on himself (oooer) and, so the batsmen told me, bowled with rather less movement than the youngsters; perhaps the advice should have been travelling in the other direction?

Dunc was caught at gully, via body and head; reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three. Ernie followed with a bottom edge, but Matt spanked a beautiful 56 in 51 balls, including a super six over extra cover.

Lanhydrock's young leggie, whose name escapes me, was turning it miles, but Healey proceeded serenely along. On 49 he bottom edged a sweep for 50 and ackowledged a polite ripple, as Sean then proceeded to signal a leg bye. A couple of balls later he acknowledged another ripple for his official 50, and moments later he was to be seen acknowledging a third ripple in five minutes - fines master! - as he passed 2000 Mystic runs. I note that ahead of Chris in the all-time Mystic run table is only one person - Dunc. Top farming, Chris!

On 78 he was caught at point by Ben Libby who, as Healey departed, appeared to be offering advice on the cover drive.

Some firm biffing from Pete and elegant caressing from Chris Cook nudged the total up to 195; Pete's gorgeous inside-out four to the long extra cover boundary would have been six anywhere else. "20 above par" suggested JC, though I suspect he was talking about the cupcakes, part of a fabulous tea, which continued to entertain the Mystic entourage well after play had resumed, now in regulation Lanhydrock misty rain.

The pitch became skiddy, quickly. Truscott, the "Mad Monk", tried a couple of typically inventive shots but was quickly caught behind off Jimmy Ton, Ern getting down for an excellent catch. And skipper Tristram "Shandy" Smart hit some lovely shots, half volleys among the loveliest, eventually holing out to Healey at mid-off.

But Alex Sparrow was simply god-like. Several of the proper cricketers among the Mystics suggested that it was as good as anyone has ever batted against the club. (We invite Ashok Malhotra to sue if he dare.) His duel with Sean, as he came yards down the wicket, was proper cricket (a proper cricketer confirmed to me), as was his horn-locking with Chris Cook.

Matt did drop Sparrow on 39, on the boundary, off Sean. It was hard and down his throat - we're used to him gobbling those. In and out it went, to sighs and groans all over the field.

But those of us watching Mr. Sparrow from across the boundary were secretly glad of the encore. And at 80-2 off 17 Lanhydrock were looking the more likely - but first Ashton fell and then Sparrow, stumped for 56. Then, like a young Geoff Boycott in an unfortunate 70's wig (there's nothing new in fashion, buddy) Trethewey saw off 27 balls for his four runs. With five down JC, the watching tour virgin, having absorbed so much about the Mystic crew in so little time, said "I'd have put Graham and Cliff on by now." Two overs later, on they came, and Ben Libby immediately skied Graham. As several fielders converged Healey boldly called for it, a fact unrelated to his 49 Mystic catches becoming 50.

And in the next over Butler provided Healey's third catch in the field. Only Ellis's 22 delayed the fall of the tail to Graham and Cliff, whose five wicket tandem should give Myton and Weatherhead, and Cook and Webb too, cause to reflect. However, walking the boundary allowed me to study Cliff's action head-on; I think I can now pick when Cliff is bowling his slower arm ball, and if you can count from 1 to 6, you can too.

So, our turn to have the edge over Lanhydrock, but all the talk that evening was our proper cricketers discussing Alex Sparrow's innings, and just how high a standard he could play if he put his mind to it - and stopped wasting his time against the likes of us.

PS Jim says that by scoring 56, Matt filled a blank: the lowest score never made by a Mystic is now 58.

PPS Thanks to Jim, Chris Healey and others for their help with this report. I wrote my original report at the match, on my little Psion - but sadly, back home, my Psion expired. This was unrelated to my using the wrong power supply and thus shoving a lot more volts into it than it was expecting. If I remember rightly, in the original match report I was much funnier, and Lanhydrock won by 6 wickets.

Nick Healey

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